SMITH MOUNTAIN LAKE
Why is there a gorgeous, 40-mile long, 20,600 acre lake, with 500 miles of shoreline, nestled in the Blue Ridge Mountains of rural southwestern Virginia? Because Smith Mountain Lake was created to generate electricity, and to help manage water flows downstream and nearby. The damming of the Blackwater and Roanoke Rivers formed this reservoir in a filling process that began on September 24, 1963 - and ended almost 2.5 years later on March 7, 1966. SML turned 50 in 2016!
SML's surface covers 32 square miles. Its highest normal water level ("full pond") is 795 feet above sea level. There is typically very little seasonal variation in the water level. The daily variation for electricity production is 12-24 inches. During severe drought conditions, including 2007 and 2012, lake levels have fallen by five feet. Under extreme flood conditions, the water level could reach just a few feet below the top of the Smith Mountain Dam, which itself is 802 feet above sea level. (The US Army Corps of Engineers publishes a daily water level report that is also available graphically over time.)
Surrounded by mountains, Smith Mountain Lake's deepest point is about 250 feet, near the dam itself. Its "average" depth is 55 feet. Outside the lake's many coves in its main channel, 80-150 feet is typical. Water purity is excellent. Water temperatures invite swimming from May through September.
Many retail stores and services are available around the lake. Most are located on or near Rt. 122, about five miles north and south of Hales Ford Bridge. There are two large, modern supermarkets, dozens of restaurants, a dozen banks, a dozen marinas, two YMCAs, two libraries, physicians, dentists, veterinarians, real estate brokers, attorneys, accountants, and scores of independent retail stores. An urgent care center and an evacuation helicopter are located at Westlake, near the intersection of Routes 122 and 616. A second helipad is six miles away, at the Scruggs Volunteer Fire Department. Full-service hospitals, including a regional heart and trauma center, are 30-45 minutes away from the lake in Roanoke, Lynchburg, and Rocky Mount.